Baseball: Schroeher goes deep twice in Mercy playoff win

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Although the ball was thrown close to his head, Bishop McGann-Mercy's Joe Crosser was safe at second base.

The scary thing about the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs is that they have so many ways in which they can beat their foes.

Whether it is by dominating pitching, long ball or little ball, the Monarchs have proved to be tough to beat.

On a day when their star junior right-hander, Pat Stepnoski, was less than consistent, McGann-Mercy brought out its bats, battering the Port Jefferson Royals for three home runs and 15 hits en route to a 15-5 victory in the Suffolk County Class C tournament in Riverhead last Thursday.

The Monarchs had many heroes as every player drove in at least one run or scored one.

Shortstop Keith Schroeher, who had only one home run entering the game, slugged two and scored all five times he reached base. Catcher Rocco Pascale went back-to-back with Schroeher in the bottom of the third inning as both blasts traveled to the same place in dead center field. Third baseman Tom Kretz drove in four runs and Stepnoski added three runs batted in.

“Great game. Complete team victory,” McGann-Mercy Coach Ed Meier said. “Hit for power. Hit for average. Put the ball into play when we needed to. Made the plays when we had to. Threw enough strikes to win. Every time those guys scored, we came right back and scored and that’s what you’ve got to do.”

When the Royals grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the third, the Monarchs came back with two in the bottom of the inning for a 3-2 advantage. When the visitors scored twice in the top of the fourth for a 4-3 edge, McGann-Mercy broke the game open with five run in the bottom of the inning for an 8-4 advantage.

“It’s tough when you put up a run and the team comes back and puts more up [to go] on top,” Meier said. “You do that a couple of innings and that’s tough to overcome.”

The Monarchs scored their five runs in the fourth on three hits, taking advantage of two walks and a hit batsman. Kretz keyed the rally with a two-run double as Christian Lynch, D. J. Willmott and Stepnoski each had an RBI.

“Every one can hit the ball anywhere in the lineup, whether it is power or contact,” Kretz said. “We’re just a well-rounded group of hitters. We don’t rely on any one guy at any time to get a big hit.”

Stepnoski started out strong, striking out six of the first eight batters before struggling. He allowed the Royals to score five times in three innings as three players who walked scored.

“I got a little hitch in my mechanics,” he said. “It was bothering me for a couple of innings, but I worked it out.

“When I’m down, they pick me up. Sometimes when we’re down, I could pitch a good game and pick us up. It’s a team sport. That’s why there’s nine of us.”

Stepnoski found his stuff to retire the final four batters he faced — two on strikeouts — before Joe Crosser struck out the side in the seventh.

Pascale was hit by a pitch three times, once with the bases loaded in the sixth. Pascale, who said he has been hit 11 times in 21 games this season, shrugged it off.

“I tend to like pitches off the plate,” Pascale said. “So when they try to pound me inside … there’s not much room to miss. So it’s going to hit me. It’s frustrating, but at the same time I get on base. When it’s the bases loaded, I get the run in. It’s nothing. If I get hit, I get hit.”

The win meant McGann-Mercy did not have to play the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers in the loser’s bracket on Friday and that Pascale and several teammates could enjoy their school’s senior prom last Thursday night without worrying about a game the next afternoon.

“That would have been a very big bummer,” Meier said. “But they took care of that so they can get that off their minds when they’re having a good time today.”

The rest allowed McGann-Mercy to have a rested pitching staff.

“We get the weekend off,” Pascale said.

Added Stepnoski: “It gives you a piece of mind. You can relax, prepare.”